Sterne was determined that Tristram Shandy would give his readers a visual experience unlike any other book, packing it with eye-catching features that pushed the boundaries of printing: blacked-out pages to lament the death of Parson Yorick; a blank area for readers to draw their own vision of the amorous Widow Wadman; wiggling lines to represent the meandering progress of the story or the dramatic flourish of a character’s stick; missing chapters that throw out the page-numbering; and a text littered with asterisks and an astonishing variety of dashes. All these are faithfully reproduced in this new limited edition.
But one feature of the first edition of Tristram Shandy made each individual copy unique: the marbled page that suddenly appears in Volume 3. Marbling is an extraordinarily labour-intensive process and was a rare technique in 18th-century England. Every one of these pages had to be folded, hand-dipped to create a unique pattern, and inserted. Unlike most modern printings, we have replicated this feature, with exquisite marbled pages created by Jemma Lewis. Using a vast colour palette, Jemma has produced an extensive range of classic designs on Fabriano Ingres paper including Italian Vein and Turkish Spot, Nonpareil and Peacock, Tiger’s Eye and Spanish Ripple. Just as there is an element of chance in the production of these eye-catching pages, so there will be an element of chance about which of these glorious patterns each collector receives. But it is certain that no two copies of this exclusive limited edition will be identical, just as Sterne himself intended.
The text follows the authoritative Florida Edition of 1978 but with one important addition. Folio bought an 1802 edition of Tristram Shandy which included the score of Uncle Toby’s favourite air ‘Lillibullero’. This is reproduced in the main text and not consigned to the notes.
Sterne took the unusual step of signing thousands of copies of the first edition himself, in a desperate attempt to address piracy and a glut of fake sequels. Obviously, this feature cannot be reproduced, but our entire edition of 750 copies has been signed by Tom Phillips on an elegant letterpress-printed limitation label.
In addition to the ten fabulous frontispieces – one for the book itself and one for each of the nine volumes, Tom Phillips has also created complementary binding designs for each element. These incorporate printed cloth and gold blocking on the limited edition, blind blocking mirrored on the front and back of the commentary and dark red metallic foil blocking on one side of the slipcase. We hope the images in the gallery above give some sense of the splendid results.
When it came to manufacturing the first edition of Tristram Shandy, Sterne was determined that it would ‘go perfect into the world’ and advertisements proudly declared the use of ‘super-fine Writing Paper’. The text and illustrations of our edition are printed on Forest Stewardship Council certified papers – most certainly super-fine and sustainable too. We are certain that collectors will agree that this new and very special limited edition, of one of the most influential books in the English language, is as perfect as it is possible to achieve.